Come one, come all — Littleton’s GraceFull Café serves anyone, whether they can afford it or not.
GraceFull Café, housed in an old brick bungalow at 5610 S. Curtice St., is one of a growing number of “pay-what-you-can” eateries, where …
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GraceFull Café, housed in an old brick bungalow at 5610 S. Curtice St., is one of a growing number of “pay-what-you-can” eateries, where donations by other patrons cover the cost of breakfast or lunch for those who can’t foot the bill.
Though people might not associate Littleton with the need for a pay-what-you-can café, co-owner Heather Greenwood says the need exists.
“Part of my goal is to increase the community’s awareness that there is a lot more economic diversity in this area than people realize,” Greenwood said. “City demographics will tell you that 23 percent of the people who live within a three-minute-drive radius of here live in poverty. I think that’s pretty shocking to a lot of people. I encourage that we all take our blinders off and look deeper into our community at the things we don’t see.”
The café serves a simple, ever-changing menu, focused on healthy, balanced meals made with fresh, in-season ingredients. On any given day, GraceFull’s $5 breakfast menu might include pancakes, quiche or hash, but always a hearty burrito. Lunches, which run $8, generally consist of a salad or sandwich, or a half-and-half combo.
For those who can’t afford a meal, the GraceFull Foundation — technically a separate entity from the café — covers the cost. The nonprofit foundation’s funds come from customers’ tips, and volunteers provide much of the labor.
The café just celebrated its one-year anniversary, and the café’s success can be measured in thousands: nearly 3,400 volunteer hours, close to $40,000 donated and almost 2,000 meals fully or partially covered by the foundation. Greenwood said about 10 percent of the café’s clientele make use of the foundation.
Greenwood said part of her goal is to bring people together with food.
“We want it to be a space that feels like home to everyone in the Littleton community,” Greenwood said.
Greenwood’s first career was as an accountant, followed by 12 years teaching business at Heritage High School. Ready for a change, she took her family to volunteer for a year in Uganda.
“I wanted my kids to see that the world is bigger than our little suburban bubble,” Greenwood said, adding that the experience taught her the values of simplicity communing over a shared meal.
Staying grounded and focused on her mission has been the biggest challenge, Greenwood said.
“I’ve had to get better at boundary setting,” Greenwood said. “My mission in this community is to give people a good meal — that’s where my involvement has to end. In the winter, it’s hard. Some of our guests are homeless, and they might not have a place to go that’s warm. I have to keep this a healthy place for all guests. I can’t become a homeless shelter. That’s not my mission.”
Greenwood has made a big impression on her customers, many of whom also volunteer.
“Heather is awesome,” said Kaitlyn Monnette, a nutrition coach who often eats and volunteers at GraceFull. “She knows everyone who walks through the door.”
“She’s like the name of the café — so full of grace,” volunteer Sarah Balasky said. “Every day is different. I’m hooked. Everyone needs to come check this place out.”
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